It’s OK to Not Care About Politics

During recent research into the life of Machiavelli something began to become quite clear to me. We weren’t always, universally, socially, communally or even personally, political. That is to say, it’s only recently that it’s become commonplace to declare oneself as left, right, Republican, Democrat, Labour, Conservative, Centrist, Reactionary, Socialist, Red, Blue, x-pilled, y-pilled etc. In terms of human history this way of being – as a political-being, or even as homo-politicus – is extremely new. The very idea of a left/right split/spectrum comes from where people sat during the French Revolution, when members of the National Assembly divided themselves into those in support of the king (right) and supporters of the Revolution (left). Arguably this is one and only time that the idea of a left/right spectrum has ever made sense. Since then both ‘directions’ signal virtue to various camps and striate one into relatively specific ways of thinking. The year we’re roughly talking about here is 1789, that’s round that all up and say – for clarity’s sake – we’ve been political ‘beings’ for just over 200 years. Once again, humans in their current evolutionary iteration have been around for 200,000 years. So we’ve had this political chip on our shoulders for roughly 0.1% of our entire lifetime. Of course, you could argue that for a large amount of that time we haven’t exactly had the infrastructure to allow for what we now commonly understand as politics or political economy, but we have had that for a few thousand years at least, so even going by that metric, the notion of a political-being or of a political-human is still quite new.

It seems to me the reason for the original (non) position, wherein man wasn’t apolitical, nor anti-political, but simply detached from the political, wasn’t due to some oppression (though some would argue otherwise)[1], nor was it really to do with any ignorance; it was largely because in relation to man’s daily life, the specific political on-goings didn’t matter to him. I would argue that this is still true, we’re just all caught up in status and popularity games.

The very idea that within contemporary (Western) society one could be ‘detached’ from politics seems absurd, that’s how tight of a grasp it has on our lives. A grasp which is ever-tightened by the popular rhetoric surrounding politics. Society in general seems to unconsciously believe that they now have some kind of duty to be political, they must be in a certain camp, they must have certain opinions on various matters, and most of all, they must care in a specifically political way. I’m here to say that this way of thinking and being is complete bullshit, and it slowly leads one to misery and submission. There are a lot of factors as to why someone might feel compelled to constantly be political, largely emanating from one’s perpetual attachment to media. The two most heinous forms of media are – of course – social and mainstream. Primarily because, once you actually begin to think about what these terms actually mean, like most things in modernity, they no longer make any sense whatsoever. Let’s begin with ‘social media’.

We all apparently ‘know’ what social media is, which is another way of saying we understand it. I’ll admit, I don’t really understand social media, and I never have. The basic reasons as to why it’s so popular are of course clear, on average humans quite like attention, they quite like having a say and they quite like boasting about their lives. However, I would ask this? If it wasn’t for social media, and its invasive societally pressuring structures, would you actually want to express certain opinions? Would you even have them? Would you have even thought about them? Maybe you would, maybe you wouldn’t, be honest with yourself. If no one was looking, and you had no proof anyone had looked, would you expend energy on the various political and social tasks you do? Ok, so this then begs the question, why the hell do we want to express these opinions? Well, for that you need a mainstream current which tells you the correct, conventional and confirmative way to be. Enter the mainstream media. Such an idea of a ‘mainstream’ is already idiotic. There can’t be such a thing because we all live in different areas of the world, within different cultures, within different families, with different values, within different contexts, and so, the job the mainstream media then is to subsume all of these alternative ways of being and differing value systems into one relatively homogenous lump, which is then there’s to mold as they wish. I’d insert here Ted Kaczynski’s ‘critique’ of ‘multiculturalism’, though it’s less a critique and more of a deconstruction. Kaczynski’s point is that there isn’t really any such thing as ‘multiculturalism’ as it’s sold to us. The overt idea is that multiple diverse cultures live amongst one another, learn from each other and share their cultures for the betterment of all. Kaczynski makes it clear that this is not what happens within contemporary multiculturalism, all that really happens is that every culture is subsumed into the exact same culture of middle-class consumerist aspiration, and perhaps allowed to retain any cultural aesthetic which might be deemed profitable by their new culture of consumerist aspiration. The exact same thing happens with mainstream media. One begins with a variety of views, opinions, values, outlooks, perspectives and contexts which have been grown organically, from their local surroundings and upbringing, these are then pushed through the conformity thresher of mainstream media, cherry-picked for their applicability for submission, and what’s left are deemed dangerous, archaic, bad, fascist, radical, silly, absurd, weird, not-normal, odd or perhaps just too common-sensical for them to remain.

Now, the exact same process happens with the idea of a ‘political-human’ with a few minor alterations. Much like homo-criminalis, or homo-economicus, once the suffix is assumed a priori as a way of being – man can be a criminal, or man can be economical. There’s no longer such a thing as a man detached entirely from criminality or the economy, there is only a man who is not a criminal, or a man who acts within the economy in a different way than what is preferred. The exact same thing happens with political man. Once a political-outlook, a political-perspective or a political-reality is assumed as the given reality, everything is then filtered through politics in some manner. Then there is no longer such a thing as a entirely unpolitical man, only a man who is deemed ignorant of politics, someone who is seen as turning a blind eye or as simply too lazy to investigate that which they should be. The language here is the problem. Foucault makes this point clear with homo-criminalis and homo-economicus, once the ontology is taken as a given, no one is not of it, but simply seen as not part of a certain section of it. Men are not men, they are either criminals or not-criminals, we are not ourselves we are either economizing or not-economizing, either way, we’re still tethered to a way of being we had no say in.

Well I’m here to say that this is complete and utter crap. If you want to go get involved in politics, then be my guest, but do NOT assume that just because I don’t care about a certain topic, opinion or perspective that I am immediately the antagonist of that position. There is a difference between a hostile apathy, in which one truly doesn’t care about the plight of others and a detachment within one simply is not involved. Of course, any involved are going to disagree. ‘It’s your duty!’ they will cry. ‘Do you not care about the world!’ they will shriek. ‘How can you just do nothing?’ they will plead. Actually, I am doing something, I’m not expending my energy on a status game which largely exists to inflate various egos and create jobs. Lest we forget that politicians are workers, to be a politician is a job, and by the looks of it, quite a cushy one at that.

Being detached from politics isn’t not caring about those things you left behind, in fact, it’s arguably the opposite. As soon as a charitable organization, a communal effort or a group event becomes politicized, I am instantly skeptical of its agenda, why? Well, because since when did helping others, loving thy neighbor or creating something helpful have to be seen through a political lens. Call me a soppy-sod, but buying a homeless person some food, donating to a local charity or helping out in a local event isn’t – and doesn’t have to be – a specifically political move or motivation, and if it is, you’re doing so to cater to your own narcissism. What are these acts then? Well, they are what they are. You help someone because they need help, you do something because it needs doing, you create because something needs creating; once sincere acts are filtered through the malicious gauze of politics they are usually lost entirely, abused into a self-congratulatory mutation.

Ok, maybe you’re with me, but you’re starting to think…’Ok, so what do I…do?‘ Isn’t that the point? Up until now, for many people, each and every act they undertook was done primarily from a political position as opposed to the multitude of other (healthier) perspectives that exist. What do you do? Do what you’d like and what you understand to be right.

“Ah yes Meta, but if we ‘do nothing’ as you propose, wont we be simply bolstering support for whichever party is in the running to win?” You’re still thinking politically, why does it actually matter to you? If I support X I’ve entered into a system which is so unfathomably corrupt, confused and rife with personality that I will never truly know what it is my vote is doing. It is NOT an apathy, an ignorance or a superiority. It is a detachment. It is one unclipping themselves from a perspective they never asked for in the first place. The years upon years spent drooling over the latest news reports, the latest facts and figures, and for what? What has it brought you but further misery? Has the world truly changed, or has is trundled along as you thought it most likely would from your specific global context? I’m no longer interested in politics in the same way I am no longer interested in shipping reports…I never was, they are in absolutely no way connected to the way in which my life will turn out, that power and that energy resides in exactly one place, my flesh. If you wish to hand over all responsibility for your life to some vague entity called ‘politics’ go ahead, but whilst that’s going on I’ll be trying to find my way throughout the labyrinth of Leviathan.

“AH! So you DO exist within politics!” Yep. I’m not an idiot, politics will and does effect my life. Certain decisions certain people make will enact changes which will effect my life. How I go on to interact with those changes is down to me. But those changes happen in much the same way a tree falling into my garden ‘happens’, I deal with it when it arrives. I WILL NOT expend my finite energy on various status games and virtuous hiccups for the sake of retaining the idea of a self whose sole purpose is to please others.

There is a great hall within a forest. There are parties in the hall 24/7, the noise never stops, the commotion never dwindles. Many people enter, very few leave. I was born in the hall and assumed its reality as the only reality. One day my eye caught the sunlight beaming in from outside, it was beautiful, sublime. I caught it only for a moment, before an elder lurched and dragged me from the hole in the wall. As I grew all I did was stand by the hole in the wall, looking out into a vague green and light space, a space which was hostile yet inviting. One day I tried to leave. I walked a few meters from the hall, retreating quickly to its comforts our of terror. The elders smirked and welcomed me back. The brief moments I had spent outside the hall stayed with me. It’s all I thought of. Many days I would try to create my own wilderness within the hall, to some degree of success but never exact. One day I left for good, out of boredom. The elders forgot of me. I resided just a few miles from the hall. Dithering here and there, doing as I wished. Some days I thought of burning the hall down, setting others free. But I quickly realised that many had their homes there, and it would be wrong for me to force my opinion on them. And so I moved further away, as far as I could, but every time I looked over my shoulder the hall was always there. I came to adjust to its noise, to work with my thoughts and understand the hall for what it was. Eventually I ventured back, realizing there were some positives to the hall, but it was simply not for me. I said hello to the elders and they were suspicious. I left once more, residing in a camp of my own making just a few miles from the hall, learning to live with its hegemony of comfort. Most days I did as I wished, the hall in the back of my mind as that which I never wanted to become. I lived outside of it, detached from its way of being.

It is not a question of not caring about politics, because to actively not care is to care. It is a question of entrance and exit. You were made to enter a perspective and you have the right to exit it also. To criticize the crowd is to be of the crowd, to criticize consumption is to consume such a criticism, to be apolitical is to be more political than all.

One day I went back to the hall, delved deep into its basement. There sat a lonely old man, spewing bitter vitriol, submissive demands and revolutionary appeals, he never stopped yapping, sordid and cruel. I sat for some days and listened, I took in much data and retained no substance of use. I knew he was there, and I knew through the floor his words echoed throughout the hall, with differing parts protruding into different sections. I left him alone and left the hall once more. I occasionally think of that old man, unchanging, bitter and alone.

[1] What can one say of the man who simply wishes to go about his day, tend to his crops and family, create art, read great literature, fish for his supper, arise to the rhythms of nature and quite frankly go about his day, thinking not of himself, but of his immediate life, of that which effects him, moment to moment. If you view such a man as oppressed, ignorant or apathetic, then I would say that the parasite of the political is deep within you.

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7 thoughts on “It’s OK to Not Care About Politics

  1. I kinda agree with the general view of politics as a status game. A rather pretentious game that will exclude anyone who doesn’t want to be part of any of its big dumb groups.

    That said, I don’t agree with your arguments to “get away from politics”.

    On the first part, you write:
    “but do NOT assume that just because I don’t care about a certain topic, opinion or perspective that I am immediately the antagonist of that position”

    That’s indeed the big dumb groups I was writing about, and a part on which I quite agree. To me it seems that political groups are quite allergic to individual thought. When you think about politics as a status game, it actually makes sense that that’s rejected. It’s all about being part of the group and repeat their memes. But I also find it somewhat unsurprising: most people are not capable of substantial individual thought, and maybe they don’t need to, but they have to align somewhere due to sheer social pressure. At that point, the defensive and lazy attitude of “you are either with me or against me” is understandable.

    I think that being able to defend the individual thought without having to be classified in any political group is important. I totally agree on that front.

    But then you continue:
    “Well, because since when did helping others, loving thy neighbor or creating something helpful have to be seen through a political lens.”

    I agree you should be able to do that without having to go through the political lens, but I find it normal that people frame their social action through a broader political lens (which can indeed be helpful from time to time). And if certain political views are common among the people who does certain social actions, then it kinda makes sense that some social actions become politicised. I don’t think that’s inherently wrong, as long as individual voices were still respected, which is the part that most often fails in the game for the reasons previously cited. But I think those are two different issues.

    Then about being irresponsible if you don’t care about politics… well, I think the main problem here is terminology. If we define politics as the status game around social opinion, then it’s not irresponsible not caring about politics, and as you say, “to actively not care is to care”. But if we take a more formal definition of politics, then not caring about politics might indeed be irresponsible. In any case, I think it differs for each person. We all have opinions, but we should definitely not feel obliged to have grand all-encompassing theories about morals and social organization for fear of being ostracised. Barely anyone reaches that level anyway, and everyone just pretends.

    So, I prefer to approach this issue through the lens of capacity and priorities. Our intellectual capacity is limited, and we all have different priorities. People should be allowed to have opinions, whenever that matters for them, without having to align themselves in a political-status-game spectrum. You should be allowed to get involved in whatever matters to you in the capacity that you want. You can’t be an active participant on everything, so you can’t be blamed for being passive in certain areas. Just be active in what matters to you, indeed.

    And finally, while I think we can’t get everyone to think, because few have the capacity and even less the drive, maybe we can help people misthink less: to not be so easily swallowed by status games and expecting others to be part of them, to be fairer to individual opinions without trying to align them on the side of the ally or the enemy, and to be ok with not being intellectually omnipotent and just caring about what’s important to them. To stop trying so hard to figure out the color of the speech, and actually care about the intentions and the words.

  2. “…as for that fine adage used as a cloak by greed and ambition, ‘That we are not born for ourselves alone but for the common weal,’ let us venture to refer to those who have joined in the dance: let them bare their consciences and confess whether rank, office and all the bustling business of the world are not sought on the contrary to gain private profit from the common weal. The evil methods which men use to get ahead clearly show that their aims cannot be worth much.”
    Montaigne “On Solitude”

  3. What a lot of words to signal how comfortably wealthy and empowered you are, thanks for sharing.

  4. > What can one say of the man who simply wishes to go about his day, tend to his crops and family, create art, read great literature, fish for his supper, arise to the rhythms of nature and quite frankly go about his day, thinking not of himself, but of his immediate life, of that which effects him, moment to moment.

    I honestly can’t situate that man into historical period, place and social class. It is someone who can read and is doing manual work and has also enough free time to be artist and lives in period when males did not engaged in voting/politics.

    Him not being oppressed excludes late soviet union (which had all of above but also oppression).

    > If you view such a man as oppressed, ignorant or apathetic, then I would say that the parasite of the political is deep within you.

    The problem with the question of whether he is oppressed or that you don’t provide any information about the larger system he lives in. Whether he is opporessed depends on other people’s actions. Whether he is ignorant depends on what he reads. He might know quite a lot from this books. Whether he is apathetic depends on what is going on around him.

    Contemporary left and right is completely unlike French revolution time. And people in the past did engaged in local affairs to the extend situation allowed them to. I really can’t think of period or large group of people who were not rules by strict ruler, were free and did not engaged in trying to steer government one way or the other.

  5. I disagree with the idea that we are not inherently political; and that somehow politics are a recent thing to us. I’d argue that politics have been around as long as civilization has; just maybe not the way we’ve seen it in the last few hundred years. Ultimately in my eyes politics are purely based off of our ethics, which we’ve had certainly for much longer.

    To lay out some perspective first, I’d like to define what I think it really means to be a part of a “political party”. To join a political party is to simply and purely resonate with their ideals for government. For example; one could say that democrats have humanitarian interests at the top of their list whereas republicans might have capitalistic ones. Neither of these perspectives are wrong per say; because right is something that is defined purely by the needs of the people. It cannot be defined by a single entity. Even a monarchy cannot perfect the art of ruling if the needs of their subjects are not met

    The reasoning then goes like this; if law is simply a definition of justice defined by the social contract of the people for the betterment of the people; then you could easily reason that somebody who is isolated from the social aspect of it, cannot facilitate or participate in government. A king in isolation cannot ever hope to know the needs of his people without discussion from his people.

    Obviously; we’ve had government, various forms of it in various degrees of success, so I think claiming that we are somehow “recently” political is incorrect. We’ve become a lot more vocal certainly, largely in part due to our right to, and we’ve given names to specific groups representing ideas and beliefs; but our methods of forming and maintaining government have never really changed in the social sense.

    I’d ask you then; how do the people know what is towards the betterment of the people without ever talking to one another about their beliefs? How can you facilitate and participate in a government without being willing to participate in the definition of the social contract?

    My conclusion is that you can’t; being out of the social aspect of politics is one and the same as abandoning the betterment of the people, as you cannot have government without it. If that’s your jam don’t let me stop you; but for this reasoning I detest that politics are “not important” and “ok to be ignored”. They quite literally shape our every day lives, down to your very right to write this post

    Now don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly saying you have to be glued to the media; or shouting your beliefs from the highest rooftops, Just that they are important, and be aware of your part in it.

  6. I enjoyed your post and largely agree with your flowery rant (the best kind of rant imo). Of course it is ok to not care about politics, you didn’t have to write an essay to justify your position to others. People will disagree, but that is fine, just let them.

    It’s not hard to imagine a person that participates in “politics” not at all except for pulling a few levers on election day. Is this person elevated above those of us who have better things to do? Have they fulfilled their civic duties and nobly contributed to the glory of democracy? Or are they simply enablers of the political head games that you mention above? I’m not sure there’s really a correct answer to this, but my opinion is: NO, pulling a few levers in a veiled booth in a dusty, old, public building downtown is not holding up society, nor is it necessary to live a full and happy life.

    I enjoyed your allegory of the hall in the forest, to me, it has a very Walden feel to it. I do believe that mankind and “politics” (a reflection of mankind and its current condition) has become detached from nature to such a degree that many spend their entire lives without seeing much of it or thinking much about it. This has only been the case for the last several hundred years and has accelerated greatly in the last century alone. Massive cities, automobiles, roads, information technology, and a consumer class that demands products made of materials from all corners of the globe, have all contributed to this lifestyle detached from nature. Since being and working in nature used to take up a much larger portion of mankind’s days, there was not as much time to focus on thinking about the “issues of the day”, or the latest trending hashtag, or the newest outrage. I think these factors have contributed greatly to the politicizing of the world. I am not denouncing this new way of life, I think it is only natural for people to have changed in this way given our current circumstances. I don’t think it is always a healthful situation, however.

    I enjoy using technology and in fact repair/configure computers for a living. This fact about my life makes it unusual to some that I do not use Social Media sites likes Facebook, Twitter, etc. and never have. I don’t judge those who do, because some people are much more social creatures than I. I also see the utility that social media can provide for communicating with large groups of people, for organizing events, or just for passing time “with others” digitally during lonely activities.

    The initial promise of Social Media to “connect” us with others, however, always rang hollow to me. Connecting to others (much like connecting to our life on earth through nature) is best done in person IMO. Sure you can find thousands of people across the globe who share your opinion on any issue, no matter how trivial. How does this echo chamber of like minded people help you discuss this issue with those who disagree with you one cubicle away? It doesn’t. It gives you the false belief that you and this large number of people are RIGHT and others are WRONG. Disagreements are part of life. They should not be line in the sand, fight to the death divisions. The efficiency with which Social Media can exacerbate divisions among people makes it no surprise that it has now become intertwined with politics to be used as a tool and a weapon of the ruling class.

    I could go on, but I really don’t need to because I can put a point on this quickly: put down the technology, get your face out from behind a screen, forget about your social media posts, followers, followees (is that a word?), and GO OUTSIDE. You can always go back to your online life, but you will probably enjoy it more after some fresh air. Look at plants, animals, water, and rocks and realize that life is often simpler than we make it out to be. We all live, eat, long for/provide for a family unit, crave rest at the end of a long day, and eventually die. Enjoy it while it lasts, because no one knows how long that will be.

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